EPA seeks comment on local air quality improvement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now soliciting public comment on its plan to designate Cache County has having made significant improvements in its air quality.

“This is a tribute to the great local work done in taking steps to reduce emissions and improve air quality,” according to Jeff Gilbert of the Cache Metropolitan Planning Organization (CMPO).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comments on recently noted improvements to air quality in Cache Valley (Photo courtesy of EPA).

A notice published in the Federal Register on Wednesday announced that EPA officials are now weighing whether to declare that the Logan area has attained standards for fine particulate matter in the air outlined in the 2006 National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Residents can submit their comments about the status of local air quality online to the EPA at https://www.regulations.gov.

Those comments should be received prior to Mar. 19 and be identified as pertaining to Docket ID No. EPA-R10-OAR-2020-0190.

Gilbert attributed a portion of the recent improvement in local air quality to the “natural turn-over of older, more polluting vehicles as the fleet of vehicles in Cache Valley has gotten newer and more vehicle miles are traveled with less-polluting cars.”

The CMPO spokesman also credited the Cache Valley Transit District bus system for promoting public transportation and the state’s emissions inspection system for privately owned vehicles.

In a recent report to local constituents, state Sen. Scott Sandal also noted that Utah launched a pilot program for emissions testing of diesel vehicles three years ago that has eliminated an estimated 1,250 tons of pollutants from the air.

Sandall also suggested that recent improvements in Utah air quality may be an unanticipated silver-lining to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Throughout the pandemic,” Sandall explained, “we have seen working from home greatly decrease traffic volume and increase air quality. Many people have also noticed that working from home does not impact their productivity and can improve an employee’s work/life balance.”

Sandall added that there is now legislation pending in the Utah Senate to support air quality improvements by making statewide diesel vehicle inspections permanent and facilitating tele-working by state employees, especially during periods of atmospheric inversions.

Despite the recent improvements in Cache Valley air quality, Gilbert warned that local officials and residents need to remain “vigilant.”

“The EPA requires that, for at least the next 20 years, we operate under ‘maintenance’ provisions of the State Implementation Plan (that was submitted to the federal government in 2014),” he explained. “Any future sustained violation of the air quality standards for Cache Valley would trigger the need to implement ‘contingency measures’ listed in that plan.”

The CMPO was organized in 1992 and serves ten communities in Cache County. The CMPO performs long-range transportation planning and helps prioritize highway, public transit and bicycle/pedestrian facility improvements.

To facilitate accomplishment of those goals, the CMPO has partnerships with the Cache Valley Transit District, the Utah Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

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